In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, local musician Court Hoang spoke with arts and culture editor Marcheta Fornoff about releasing a new album and the story behind the single “You Are Here.” 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.

Court Hoang: Hi. My name is Court Hoang. I am a local Fort Worth musician and I just had a single come out on June 3 called “You Are Here,” and I have a full album coming out called “Get Right” on June 17. 

Marcheta Fornoff: I want to talk about “You Are Here” and the contest that initiated the origins for this song. 

Hoang: It was a giveaway. I had some sort of fan milestone, and I said, OK, I’m going to do a giveaway. There were a few prizes. One of them was like, you can win the whole discography. And one of them was, you can commission a song, and it could be like a cover song you want me to learn or it could be a song you want me to write.

By chance, the fan that won the drawing reached out to me, and I said, “Do you want me to learn a song, or do you want me to write a song?” And she came back a few days later and said, “I would like you to write a song for my niece and nephew who passed away at the ages of 19 months and 3 years old. They were actually killed by their father, who then took his own life.”

So (it was) just an incredibly sad story — not what I was expecting.

Usually when people commission songs, it’s for a wedding or something like, you know, very, very light-hearted, very fun. So this was something that was a little bit more surprising. 

Fornoff: But you took it on, this really daunting assignment. You have two little kids of your own. I’m wondering, was that part of why you (said) OK? Or were you just like, well, I offered this…?

Hoang: Yeah, having kids at that time that were just about the same ages was one of the reasons I hesitated to say yes. I said, I don’t know how I’m going to do this emotionally. My kids were 1 year old and 3 years old at the time. And, actually, we just had a third.

Releasing (music) now is sort of bringing up a lot of those similar things because, as a new parent, you’re just full of worry and anxiety anyway. And then, to hear about a real life story of something just so tragic and unexpected happening to young children can send you to a difficult place mentally and emotionally.

But I did say yes, just because I thought maybe it would be good for me to try it. And then I also knew that this fan that won the giveaway was needing some kind of comfort, to offer maybe some closure. (This song was) definitely just sort of a chance to honor the lives of these young kids. 

Fornoff: And what has been, the aunt of these two children, what has been her reaction? 

Hoang: She has been very positive.

Throughout the production process, I would touch base once in a while and say, “I don’t want you to hear it yet, but we are working on it. We’re getting close.” And then when I had the audio fully produced, recorded, mixed and mastered, I sent it to her and she loved it.

She said she was going to send it to the mom of these kids, and I wasn’t expecting that. So I think at least for the fan, it was something that offered a lot of comfort. And she’s thanked me multiple times for the work and for the kind of emotional labor that she knows went into it, so I appreciated that for sure. 

Fornoff: How nerve-wracking was that to present a song that is that emotional, that sensitive?

Hoang: I’m used to doing songwriting that touches on personal and sensitive topics, but they’re all usually pertaining to me or to sort of big general social causes. It’s rare that I write something that’s about or for someone that’s not either me or sort of an abstracted general you.

That was definitely nerve-wracking because it felt a little bit like I was taking on someone else’s personal experience and trying to make it my own. And, you know, in the song I’ve mentioned in the past that, you know, the voice in the song is more me talking to my own kids, because that was just kind of what I had to do to get in the right headspace to write the song. So it is very personal to me. But I also recognize that it’s not really, it’s not about me, you know. So I think it was a tough balance to find between those two things. And, I think I did OK. 

Fornoff: We focused on this one single bit. What else on your album are you really excited about? 

Hoang: Like for the full album? There are definitely some songs that have big, kind of dramatic, arrangements on them.

My producer, his name is Joseph Fisher-Schramm. He also plays bass for me, but he’s kind of a musical genius in his own right. When I started writing songs for this album, I immediately knew I was going to need help with the production side of things, so he has been indispensable.

The last song on the album is probably my personal favorite. It’s called “Lights Are Burning,” and it’s that big, dramatic kind of movie soundtrack sound. And that’s what I would do all the time if I had the budget to bring an orchestra with me everywhere I go. I’m really excited for people to hear that one.

That’s one that we’re going to be able to do live at the release show as well. I’ll have a 13-piece band working with me there, so we’ll be able to do justice to the studio recording. I’m very excited about that one for sure. 

Fornoff: Is this your first time performing with that large of an accompaniment? 

Hoang: It is, yeah. I’ve done some ensemble things before, especially like in college, but most of that was kind of choral with an orchestra behind you. But nothing that I had written and certainly nothing (where) I was kind of the band leader. This is a new experience for me.

Fornoff: We’ve talked a little bit about your fans’ reaction. I’m curious about your own family’s reaction. I’m sure a lot of music this time around was inspired by them, too.

Hoang: Yes. And that’s been a big change. This is my first full-length album in nine years, actually.

When the last one came out, I was living in Austin, I was single and life was very different. I’ve grown up a lot since then in some ways and not in other ways. My music now is less focused on myself, and it’s more focused on the people around me and especially my community in the world at large. So a lot of the songwriting has more of an outward look than an inward look.

There are definitely still some songs that have that kind of introspective bend to them. But I think having a family really forces you to stop thinking so much about yourself all the time. And that’s something that I needed.

I think I’m a lot happier when I’m not just fixated on myself all the time, so it’s nice to be able to have someone else to spread love to, you know. And that has definitely played into my songwriting.

There is a song on the album that is written for my daughter and the day we’re recording this is her birthday, actually. She is turning five. And I wrote a song that’s two flutes that are playing and it’s sort of me and her. It’s an instrumental piece that’s really fun, so I am also happy about that one. 

Fornoff: Your album release show is coming up in Dallas. Do you have any Fort Worth shows coming?

Hoang: The Dallas show is going to be at Fair Park at the Margo Jones Theatre, and that’s on the 17th of June.

The week after that, we’re going to be going on just a small tour. I have a newborn, so I can’t be on the road too long. But we’re going to hit Austin and Dallas and Fort Worth and New Orleans.

Fort Worth will be on July 1 at Twilite Lounge. I’m really excited about that one. The tour support is coming with me. Her name is Taylor Teachout and I’ve been producing an album for them as well, so we’ll be sort of touring our albums together and then Cherry Mantis will also be playing that night, and they’re just a local band that I love. 

Fornoff: Great. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. 

Hoang: Absolutely. It was a pleasure.

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at marcheta.fornoff@fortworthreport.org or on
Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Marcheta Fornoff

For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...